This dish finds its roots in the province of Kermanshah, located in the western region of Iran. At its core, it is a simple one-pot meal that starts with slow cooking of the beef and the garbanzos. Along the way, onions and simple spices are added to develop more depth and flavor. Once the beef and beans have become tender and succulent, rice is added straight into the pot and cooked until all of the moisture has been absorbed.
I first became aware of this dish only weeks ago when messaging with a friend, Masoumeh Khanoom, who is also one of my Instagram followers. Khanoom in Farsi is a polite and formal reference placed after a first name or before a last name to refer to a woman.
Yes indeed, this is another Kufteh (meatballs in Farsi) in the long line of meatballs in Persian cuisine. Except this one is just jam packed with incredible and unique flavors that are enhanced with the addition of fresh herbs and sparkling arils of pomegranate and the crunch of the much beloved emerald green colored Iranian pistachios.
Kufteh is the term Iranians use to describe meatballs. However, unlike meatballs from most other cultures, Persian meatballs are not primarily about the meat! As a matter of fact, most Persian meatballs incorporate many other elements. A variety of grains including rice, as well as a wide range of beans and lentils, fresh herbs, nuts and dried fruits, and even whole hard-boiled eggs, find their way into this traditional dish.
However you spell or pronounce them, Kebabs, Kebobs, or Kababs are meat dishes that take pride of place alongside other meat-centered dishes in Persian cuisine. They are typically small pieces of seasoned whole or ground beef, lamb, chicken or seafood that are generally skewered and grilled. What makes Kebabs so tasty is the addition of spices and lengthy marination in grated onions.
Khoresh Rivas is yet another Persian stew that celebrates the abundance of fresh herbs and Iranians’ never ending love affair with sour flavors. In the rest of the world rhubarb’s sourness is almost always moderated with sugar or strawberries, but Iranians use rhubarb in savory dishes precisely because of its sour flavor.
Khoresh Seeb is a highly adaptable stew whose stars are the firm and tart apples (Seeb in Farsi) that are gently sauteed in butter or ghee and then placed on top of the stew as it finishes cooking.
The base of this dish is made with beef and yellow split peas, patiently cooked in a turmeric and tomato sauce which by itself is often called Gheymeh. Gheymeh is not only served alongside fried or roasted potatoes, but is also used as a decorative topping on various dishes such as Aash.
Abgoosht is the original Persian rustic “one pot meal” that dates back to centuries ago when simple ingredients were gathered and thrown in a pot to accompany tougher cuts of meat that needed to cook for a long time.
Nowadays, with easy access to a wide range of ingredients, this once modest dish has become quite elevated! More vegetables have found their way into this one pot meal, alongside traditional Persian spices. Consequently, each family has developed their own version of Abgoosht.
Bij Bij is not only a fun name for a dish, it is also a staple for Caspian Sea folks. People from Iran’s Mazandaran Province call this dish “Vavishka” (clearly a name that originated in Russia), but in Tehran those who know of it call it Bij Bij. It is a comfort dish, made with ground meat, caramelized onions and spices, all cooked in a rich tomato sauce, and with eggs poached right in the middle. An all-round simple and flavorful dish that can be prepared in about an hour, with very little effort.
So much of this dish is familiar and comforting, not just to Iranians but also in many cultures around the world. This definitely makes it to most Persians’ top 10 list of favorite rice dishes, albeit under different regional names and slightly different cooking methods.